Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Cuba: Che, "Chan Chan," Cigars, and Fortune Tellers

So we went to Cuba in December, stayed at the Melia Las Antillas resort in Varadero, and froze. (Seriously: parts of Cuba broke record low temperatures.)

Now I'm not one for all-inclusives -- I spoke to several employees at the resort and they confirmed that they're awful to work for and terrible for the country -- and hope never to stay in another, but I promised Greg I'd do it just this once. All the highlights of our trip occurred OUTSIDE of the resort.

We took a bus into Havana, and walked around for hours without a map. The travel gods were with us. I really wanted to visit La Bodeguita Del Medio (Hemingway's Bar), and we stumbled onto it by chance.

(Photo below: outside of Hemingway's Bar)

My favourite thing to do in any new place is just walk and experience. I took several street shots and tried to capture the colours, vibrancy, and
overall ambiance of the place. Havana felt good.

The most exotic experience I had was having my fortune told in the shadows of a plaza near a cathedral. Cecilia is a Santeria priestess, and she blew me away when I sat down and she began naming the people in my life.
The entire fortune was told in Spanish (which was fine), and took about 50 minutes. I appreciated that she shared the good and the bad. Incredible, once-in-a-lifetime experience.

(Photo below: Shelley with the poet-in-residence at La Bodeguita del Medio, Havana)

(photo below: The capital in Havana.)
(Greg in Havana, below)
(Photos above and below: One of Havana's famous Cigar Ladies.)
(Photo below: Che Guevara, superhero and human being extraordinaire. I did some reading before we left ... what a wonder he was. Not too hard on the eyeballs, either :) )
(Photo below: Cecilia, the Santeria Priestess.)
(Photo above: art market in Havana. We bought a fantastic djembe (African drum) there, and a tambourine.)

(photo below: Greg in Hemingway's bar)

(Photo above: Shelley with one of the original members of The Buena Vista Social Club. Woot!)
I have been listening to the Buena Vista Social Club since Ry Cooder produced the album (and my friend Mike Beresnak gave me a copy), and to hear several of the original members perform in Varadero was extraordinary. "Chan Chan" (which we heard all over Cuba, played on violin, cello, guitar, piano, etc.) ... "Dos Gardenias" ... "Candela" ..."El Cuarto de Tula" ... all being played a few feet away from me by originals. It was really something.

(Photosw: scenes from the Buena Vista Social Club Legends performance in Varadero.)

Photos: Below are random photos taken in and around Varadero.
(Greg could have sold his hat many times over.)

We rented a motorbike ... another great day.

The weather was so cool I never went in a pool. I did get into the ocean few times.

Greg thought the shrimp was scrumptious
at the resort. Further to my all-inclusives ranting ...
I feel they promote excess. Drink all you want, eat
all you want. Very unappealling how drunk some
people -- of all ages -- got.

(Photo above:
Greg smoking a Cohiba on the balcony,)

We took our racquets. Love tennis. Even when I
continually lose.

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